Lowering Class E on the East Coast


Airservices would like to thank all airspace users and aviation industry stakeholders that provided feedback on our proposal to lower the base of Class E airspace along the east coast of Australia.

During the initial consultation period of 20 January to 15 February 2021, we received over 1,000 responses including significant feedback from general aviation operators around safety, risk, operational needs, aircraft fitment, cost/benefit and operator workload considerations.


Refined design to address industry feedback

Based on industry feedback received, we have refined the design and propose the base level of Class E airspace along the east coast to be 4,500ft, 6,500ft or 8,500ft Above Mean Sea Level (AMSL) depending on terrain.

The refined design seeks to:

  • improve safety of Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) operations by providing a more effective risk control against conflict/collision risk than pilot-separation
  • minimise adverse impact on the needs of airspace users, particularly general aviation operators, that will continue to require access to Class G airspace, including those without necessary transponder or radio equipment
  • provide more levels to cater for safety of operations outside proposed Class E airspace to avoid terrain (including a minimum of 1,360ft of Class G airspace between terrain and the base of Class E airspace in mountainous areas) and cope with convective weather
  • remove potential for confusion regarding the operation of aircraft in Class E or Class G airspace, and which frequency the pilot should be on, by referencing airspace levels to AMSL
  • reduce the impact of frequency transfer during critical high-workload phases of flight between area frequency and Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF) while transiting across Class E and Class G airspace.

A visualisation of the refined design is illustrated below (note this is not representative of specific areas or locations).


Supporting Airspace Charts

The proposed airspace volumes, surveillance and communications charts are available on the right hand side of this page.

Legend - Airspace Volume Charts (as shown in Surveillance and Communications Coverage links)

Green: Class C/D steps into the control tower
Light Blue: Class E Lower Level A045 below the existing Class E/C
Purple: Class E Lower Level A065 below existing Class E/C
Red: Class E Lower Level A085 no change to existing Class E

Legend – Surveillance Coverage Charts

Pink: Radar at A045
Orange: ADS-B only at A045
NB: Overlaps not shown

Legend – Communications Coverage Charts

Green: VHF at A045
Blue: VHF at A065

We have also prepared airspace models for our towered aerodromes, which are available on the right hand side of this page. The airspace design outside of tower hours continues to be assessed on a location specific basis, with the final models to be communicated prior to implementation.

To assist industry in better understanding the proposal, a list of all ERSA-listed aerodromes on the east coast has been prepared that describes:

  • Elevation
  • Current base of CTA
  • Current class of CTA
  • Proposed base of CTA
  • Proposed class of CTA

This list is available on the right hand side of this page.

Legend - Aerodrome List

* = aerodrome that is just outside the boundary of the J-Curve, but included due to close proximity.
** = Watts Bridge aerodrome straddles the 50 DME arc Brisbane, and as such has two bases of CTA, east lower than west.
*** = Aerodromes situated in R405B airspace (H24, SFC – 1,000ft), which has a conditional status of RA3. The overlying airspace is Class C to the base of 1,000ft.


Driver for change

In recent times there has been a relatively significant change in airspace usage and risk profile. While there has been an overall reduction in air traffic due to the COVID-19 crisis, we have seen in a surge in general aviation activities. We also expect the traffic mix and interactions between diverse types of airspace users to continue to change dynamically in response to the Government support for tourism recovery and regional aviation development, as we start to emerge from the pandemic.

This increased airspace complexity requires us to rethink traditional service provision and ensure that we are proactively adjusting to new and emerging risks. We also have had the opportunity to learn from recent safety occurrences, particularly in areas where there is a reliance on pilots self-separation.

The primary driver of the proposal is to deliver a net safety benefit to industry with minimal adverse impact on access, cost and other needs of individual airspace users. We aim to achieve this outcome by:

  • proactively reducing the conflict/collision risk between IFR and IFR aircraft in proposed airspace volumes that will be changed from Class G to Class E
  • retaining a portion of Class G airspace to meet the needs of non-transponder equipped aircraft and as part of supporting the general aviation sector.


Safety Benefit

Today, a large portion of Australia’s regional enroute airspace is Class G, requiring pilots to actively assess the traffic situation, comply with the rules of air to self-separate and rely predominantly on see-and-avoid principles to avoid conflicts/collisions. Pilots on IFR flights are provided with traffic information about other IFR flights. These are long standing procedures which have been used for several decades.

As our surveillance network has expanded, we are now in a position to deliver a more effective risk control against collision/conflict risk by replacing a portion of Class G airspace with controlled airspace (Class E) that continues to allow appropriately equipped Visual Flight Rule (VFR) operators access to airspace without a clearance.

This change will replace up to 4,000ft of Class G airspace with Class E airspace where terrain allows. This airspace between 4,500ft and 8,500ft overlies numerous non-towered aerodromes on the eastern seaboard. Many of these aerodromes have IFR operations, requiring pilots to process large amounts of information while climbing or descending near an aerodrome.

Provision of an air traffic control service delivers positive control between IFR aircraft through the issuing of clearances and tactical intervention to maintain separation. This will deliver a net safety benefit, particularly in IFR conditions (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) to reduce the likelihood of potential aircraft conflicts (or conflicts with terrain) escalating to a collision.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Flight Threads

FAQs and flight threads have been developed to assist understanding of the refined design. These are available on the right hand side of this page under ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ and ‘Flight Threads’.

The flight threads are not representative of specific flights, but demonstrate what typical IFR and VFR operations can be expected if the proposal is implemented.

  • NSW Riverina Flight Threads
  • Central West NSW Flight Threads
  • North West Regional Victoria Flight Threads
  • Hunter & New England Region NSW Flight Threads


Engagement

Airservices is actively seeking industry feedback on the impact of the refined design via the following channels:

  • Engage Airservices
  • Email communications to stakeholders across all segments of industry
  • Industry workshops
  • Targeted meetings
  • AvSEF Discussion Paper


Industry Workshops

A number of workshops for industry will be held in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra. You can participate at these workshops either in-person or via Webex. To register for your preferred workshop, complete the registration form under 'Feedback and Workshops' at the bottom of this page. For regional and interstate attendees who would like to attend, please register for any location and select that you will be attending ‘remotely’.

DateTimeLocationVenue
26 March 202110:00am - 11:30am (local)MelbourneAirservices Melbourne Air Traffic Services Centre
Tower Road, Melbourne Airport
30 March 20219:30am - 11:00am (local)SydneyBankstown Airport Building
3 Arvo Street, Bankstown
31 March 20212:00pm - 3:30pm (local)CanberraAirservices Office
25 Constitution Avenue, Canberra
1 April 202110:00am - 11:30am (local)BrisbaneDelivered via WebEx

Pre-registration is essential for these workshops to ensure relevant security access is provided


How you can provide feedback

Airservices invites industry to provide comments on our revised proposal using the feedback form, found at the bottom of this page. If you have questions on the revised proposal, please utilise the Q&A box at the bottom of this page.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is conducting a separate anonymous survey to understand what communication and surveillance equipment pilots use when flying under VFR conditions. The survey can be accessed on CASA’s Consultation Hub.

We support the CASA survey and appreciate industry response that will provide invaluable information to gain a whole-of-Government understanding of the fitment status and plans of VFR operators to inform airspace policy.


Next Steps

Consultation on the revised proposal is now open until 5:00pm (AEST) 30 April 2021. Airservices will be reviewing and monitoring feedback received during this time and will regularly update industry on the progress of the proposal.

At the completion of consultation, Airservices will produce a detailed report on the consultation process, how industry feedback has been sought and considered, and finalise a decision regarding the final design and Airspace Change Proposal (ACP) submission to CASA. This will be circulated among industry for further comment prior to submission.

We are also continuing our detailed analyses as part of the ACP preparation that will cover safety, efficiency, equitable access, economic and cost impact, regulatory impact statement, national security, environment and implementation aspects.


Information on Airservices initial consultation and proposal is available on the right hand side of this page under ‘Initial Proposal Documents’


Airservices would like to thank all airspace users and aviation industry stakeholders that provided feedback on our proposal to lower the base of Class E airspace along the east coast of Australia.

During the initial consultation period of 20 January to 15 February 2021, we received over 1,000 responses including significant feedback from general aviation operators around safety, risk, operational needs, aircraft fitment, cost/benefit and operator workload considerations.


Refined design to address industry feedback

Based on industry feedback received, we have refined the design and propose the base level of Class E airspace along the east coast to be 4,500ft, 6,500ft or 8,500ft Above Mean Sea Level (AMSL) depending on terrain.

The refined design seeks to:

  • improve safety of Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) operations by providing a more effective risk control against conflict/collision risk than pilot-separation
  • minimise adverse impact on the needs of airspace users, particularly general aviation operators, that will continue to require access to Class G airspace, including those without necessary transponder or radio equipment
  • provide more levels to cater for safety of operations outside proposed Class E airspace to avoid terrain (including a minimum of 1,360ft of Class G airspace between terrain and the base of Class E airspace in mountainous areas) and cope with convective weather
  • remove potential for confusion regarding the operation of aircraft in Class E or Class G airspace, and which frequency the pilot should be on, by referencing airspace levels to AMSL
  • reduce the impact of frequency transfer during critical high-workload phases of flight between area frequency and Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF) while transiting across Class E and Class G airspace.

A visualisation of the refined design is illustrated below (note this is not representative of specific areas or locations).


Supporting Airspace Charts

The proposed airspace volumes, surveillance and communications charts are available on the right hand side of this page.

Legend - Airspace Volume Charts (as shown in Surveillance and Communications Coverage links)

Green: Class C/D steps into the control tower
Light Blue: Class E Lower Level A045 below the existing Class E/C
Purple: Class E Lower Level A065 below existing Class E/C
Red: Class E Lower Level A085 no change to existing Class E

Legend – Surveillance Coverage Charts

Pink: Radar at A045
Orange: ADS-B only at A045
NB: Overlaps not shown

Legend – Communications Coverage Charts

Green: VHF at A045
Blue: VHF at A065

We have also prepared airspace models for our towered aerodromes, which are available on the right hand side of this page. The airspace design outside of tower hours continues to be assessed on a location specific basis, with the final models to be communicated prior to implementation.

To assist industry in better understanding the proposal, a list of all ERSA-listed aerodromes on the east coast has been prepared that describes:

  • Elevation
  • Current base of CTA
  • Current class of CTA
  • Proposed base of CTA
  • Proposed class of CTA

This list is available on the right hand side of this page.

Legend - Aerodrome List

* = aerodrome that is just outside the boundary of the J-Curve, but included due to close proximity.
** = Watts Bridge aerodrome straddles the 50 DME arc Brisbane, and as such has two bases of CTA, east lower than west.
*** = Aerodromes situated in R405B airspace (H24, SFC – 1,000ft), which has a conditional status of RA3. The overlying airspace is Class C to the base of 1,000ft.


Driver for change

In recent times there has been a relatively significant change in airspace usage and risk profile. While there has been an overall reduction in air traffic due to the COVID-19 crisis, we have seen in a surge in general aviation activities. We also expect the traffic mix and interactions between diverse types of airspace users to continue to change dynamically in response to the Government support for tourism recovery and regional aviation development, as we start to emerge from the pandemic.

This increased airspace complexity requires us to rethink traditional service provision and ensure that we are proactively adjusting to new and emerging risks. We also have had the opportunity to learn from recent safety occurrences, particularly in areas where there is a reliance on pilots self-separation.

The primary driver of the proposal is to deliver a net safety benefit to industry with minimal adverse impact on access, cost and other needs of individual airspace users. We aim to achieve this outcome by:

  • proactively reducing the conflict/collision risk between IFR and IFR aircraft in proposed airspace volumes that will be changed from Class G to Class E
  • retaining a portion of Class G airspace to meet the needs of non-transponder equipped aircraft and as part of supporting the general aviation sector.


Safety Benefit

Today, a large portion of Australia’s regional enroute airspace is Class G, requiring pilots to actively assess the traffic situation, comply with the rules of air to self-separate and rely predominantly on see-and-avoid principles to avoid conflicts/collisions. Pilots on IFR flights are provided with traffic information about other IFR flights. These are long standing procedures which have been used for several decades.

As our surveillance network has expanded, we are now in a position to deliver a more effective risk control against collision/conflict risk by replacing a portion of Class G airspace with controlled airspace (Class E) that continues to allow appropriately equipped Visual Flight Rule (VFR) operators access to airspace without a clearance.

This change will replace up to 4,000ft of Class G airspace with Class E airspace where terrain allows. This airspace between 4,500ft and 8,500ft overlies numerous non-towered aerodromes on the eastern seaboard. Many of these aerodromes have IFR operations, requiring pilots to process large amounts of information while climbing or descending near an aerodrome.

Provision of an air traffic control service delivers positive control between IFR aircraft through the issuing of clearances and tactical intervention to maintain separation. This will deliver a net safety benefit, particularly in IFR conditions (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) to reduce the likelihood of potential aircraft conflicts (or conflicts with terrain) escalating to a collision.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Flight Threads

FAQs and flight threads have been developed to assist understanding of the refined design. These are available on the right hand side of this page under ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ and ‘Flight Threads’.

The flight threads are not representative of specific flights, but demonstrate what typical IFR and VFR operations can be expected if the proposal is implemented.

  • NSW Riverina Flight Threads
  • Central West NSW Flight Threads
  • North West Regional Victoria Flight Threads
  • Hunter & New England Region NSW Flight Threads


Engagement

Airservices is actively seeking industry feedback on the impact of the refined design via the following channels:

  • Engage Airservices
  • Email communications to stakeholders across all segments of industry
  • Industry workshops
  • Targeted meetings
  • AvSEF Discussion Paper


Industry Workshops

A number of workshops for industry will be held in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra. You can participate at these workshops either in-person or via Webex. To register for your preferred workshop, complete the registration form under 'Feedback and Workshops' at the bottom of this page. For regional and interstate attendees who would like to attend, please register for any location and select that you will be attending ‘remotely’.

DateTimeLocationVenue
26 March 202110:00am - 11:30am (local)MelbourneAirservices Melbourne Air Traffic Services Centre
Tower Road, Melbourne Airport
30 March 20219:30am - 11:00am (local)SydneyBankstown Airport Building
3 Arvo Street, Bankstown
31 March 20212:00pm - 3:30pm (local)CanberraAirservices Office
25 Constitution Avenue, Canberra
1 April 202110:00am - 11:30am (local)BrisbaneDelivered via WebEx

Pre-registration is essential for these workshops to ensure relevant security access is provided


How you can provide feedback

Airservices invites industry to provide comments on our revised proposal using the feedback form, found at the bottom of this page. If you have questions on the revised proposal, please utilise the Q&A box at the bottom of this page.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is conducting a separate anonymous survey to understand what communication and surveillance equipment pilots use when flying under VFR conditions. The survey can be accessed on CASA’s Consultation Hub.

We support the CASA survey and appreciate industry response that will provide invaluable information to gain a whole-of-Government understanding of the fitment status and plans of VFR operators to inform airspace policy.


Next Steps

Consultation on the revised proposal is now open until 5:00pm (AEST) 30 April 2021. Airservices will be reviewing and monitoring feedback received during this time and will regularly update industry on the progress of the proposal.

At the completion of consultation, Airservices will produce a detailed report on the consultation process, how industry feedback has been sought and considered, and finalise a decision regarding the final design and Airspace Change Proposal (ACP) submission to CASA. This will be circulated among industry for further comment prior to submission.

We are also continuing our detailed analyses as part of the ACP preparation that will cover safety, efficiency, equitable access, economic and cost impact, regulatory impact statement, national security, environment and implementation aspects.


Information on Airservices initial consultation and proposal is available on the right hand side of this page under ‘Initial Proposal Documents’

Q&A Form

Please ask general questions relating to this proposal here. Note, this is not formal feedback to be provided as part of our submission. Your questions may be published.

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  • Can you explain the light blue & purple shaded areas on the map. They are different to the list of aerodromes. For example, Boonah & Evans Head appear in the light blue area on the map, signifying they are in the 4500' CLASS E area. However, the aerodrome list states that class E starts at 6500'. Also, I thought Ballina & Mangalore would be fitting into the 4500' area.

    AB1900 asked 6 months ago

    Hi, 

    Thank you for question. Boonah and Evans Head are 6500FT and shown in purple on the airspace proposal diagrams. For operational reasons, our current model is for 6500 ft AMSL base of Class E at Mangalore and Ballina.

  • Where are the high and medium density airspace areas currently in Class G that will revert to Class E at 1500 AGL?

    kgwilson asked 8 months ago

    Please see the charts outlining the extent of the airspace impacted by this proposal, that have now been added to the Engage page.

  • Hi, Was the webinar on the 27th recorded? Kind regards Peter

    PeterEvans asked 8 months ago

    Hi Peter,  the webinar was recorded for internal purposes only to assist in notetaking. The PowerPoint presentation can be found on the Enage page under "documents". 

  • Will vfr aircraft without transponder but fitted with low cost adsb be able to operate in class E? Or must they still be fitted with expensive transponders?

    Planesmaker asked 8 months ago

    This change is proposed to proceed with the current equipage requirements as per the existing regulations.


    As such, any VFR operator in Class E airspace will be required to have: 

    1. IFR ADS-B OUT; or

    2. Mode S transponder; or

    3. Mode A/C transponder; or

    4. Integrated Traffic Awareness Beacon System (TABS) device

  • What is the rationale behind the change to AGL from AMSL? I have a concern that pilots operating in vicinity of the G/E boundary will be at a higher risk to a safety occurrence (particularly between aircraft with XPDR with to one without.

    David V asked 8 months ago

    The use of AMSL becomes problematic with respect to terrain, when introduced below 8500 ft. 

    1500 ft AGL provides a standard that considers the height of uncharted obstacles and the minimum 1000 ft terrain clearance as per MOS Part 173.

  • Could you confirm whether the intent is to lower the E-Class (from 8500 to 1500 Lower Limit) across the entire J-Curve or to step down the E-class LL over more congested airports? Could you expand on the reduction of e-class "in segments between Cairns and Melbourne." Is the intent for E-Class to be lowered to 1500LL AGL?

    DaveZ asked 8 months ago

    Yes, the intent is to lower the base of Class E to 1500 ft throughout the J-Curve, not just step down over aerodromes. Downloadable maps showing the full extent of the change between Cairns and Melbourne have now been added to the Engage page.

  • When listening to the Webinar on 27 January 2021 it seems that their are still a lot of issues not resolved. Being a project of this proportion I would assume a thorough safety case has been performed with all the probable issues described and mitigations provided. Could the results of this safety case be made available?

    Global asked 8 months ago

    Safety cases are internal documents which support our decision-making. Airservices protocol is not to release safety cases.

  • At CTAF airports, will IFR aircraft be able to get a clearance to enter Class E on the ground instead of airborne?

    Tom M asked 8 months ago

    We are working with our SME’s to confirm all operational details, but the intent is to provide IFR operators with an airways clearance on the ground, prior to becoming airborne.

  • Does this mean that VFR traffic must be transponder equipped to fly in this new class E space between 1500 and 8500?

    Matt R asked 8 months ago

    This change is proposed to proceed with the current equipage requirements as per the existing regulations.


    As such, any VFR operator in Class E airspace will be required to have: 

    1. IFR ADS-B OUT; or

    2. Mode S transponder; or

    3. Mode A/C transponder; or

    4. Integrated Traffic Awareness Beacon System (TABS) device

  • How does this affect sailplane gliding in regional Victoria?

    Vneviv asked 8 months ago

    If the airspace in which the glider operations are occurring is currently base of controlled airspace FL125, then there will be no change.

    If the airspace is within the scope of the proposal (see downloadable maps on the engage page), then any sailplane gliding will be required to meet with the existing equipage requirements (radio and transponder) for Class E airspace.